Make New Year’s Resolutions to stop smoking

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

As we approach the New Year and begin to think about our resolutions, it is time to learn about the concept of third-hand smoke and its harmful effects.

Everyone has experienced third-hand smoke. It is when you step into an elevator and it smells as if someone has just lit up a cigarette but there is no one there.

Third-hand smoke is tobacco smoke contamination that remains after the cigarette has been extinguished.

Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, a pediatrician at the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center in Boston, has recently published this new aspect of the dangers of cigarette smoking in Pediatrics, a respected pediatric journal.

According to the study, a large number of people, particularly smokers, have no idea that third-hand smoke, a mixture of toxins that linger in carpets, sofas, clothes and other materials hours and even days after the cigarette is put out, is a health hazard for infants and children. Continue reading

The skinny on sugar substitutes

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Here is a sweet story. Sort of. Do you know the difference between artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes?

One tastes good and the other doesn’t?

Not quite. Artificial sweeteners have improved over the years from the early days of cyclamate. Overall, sugar substitutes are anything used as a sweetener other than table sugar (what is chemically called sucrose).

Artificial sweeteners include sugar alcohols like xylitol, which you find in sugarless gum, and natural products like maple syrup and molasses. They also include the pink, blue and yellow packets found on restaurant tables across the country. Aspartame is found in Equal, saccharin in Sweet N’ Low and sucralose in Splenda. Artificial sweeteners can also be “natural” like the recently launched Stevia products, which include Truvia. Most artificial types are known to be more intense sweeteners than natural sugar. One down side of some of these products is the aftertaste that follows. Continue reading

Patience is healthy for you

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

“Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well” — quote from an 8-year-old.

The good book says, “Love is patient, Love is kind….”

What is it about being patient that elevates it right up there between love and kindness?

Perhaps, like me, you occasionally have problems with being patient. This can even happen with those closest to us, those we know and love so well. At these moments, we may feel deflated, considering ourselves spiritual failures. Though we aspire to the stars of generosity and love, a simple domestic moment of impatience can ground us in the humility of how challenging it is to be patient and kind

And how about patience with strangers? This is where the virtue of being patient really is, well, a virtue. Rather than road rage at a slow or sloppy driver, rather than tapping your foot and glaring at your watch because of a new checkout clerk handling a fussy customer, rather than yelling at your kid to hurry up to get ready for school for the umpteenth time … perhaps patience is the solution.

Patience is healthy for you, you know. It is the antidote to stress. When we are patient, we give up on our own timetable and respect that of others, of the universe, of divine order, of the cosmic clock of events beyond our immediate control. Continue reading

Keep holidays safe from fire hazards

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kid Healthy

Every year without fail, the joy of this holiday season is tempered by news that a handful of families have lost a home or a child to a fire during the Christmas week.

Cold weather, space heaters and dry Christmas trees make a dangerous combination. Here again are some tips on how to make decorations safe and avoid a family tragedy.


  • Have an operable fire extinguisher readily available.
  • Invest in an artificial Christmas tree with label showing Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) approves it.
  • If you buy a natural tree, check to make sure the needles feel soft and pliable. Bend a twig to see if the branch is moist. Brush against the “grain” of a branch and avoid trees that lose needles. Remember many trees are sprayed “green,” so color alone is not a sufficient guide.
  • Most trees are cut weeks before Christmas and need care to get them through the season. Just as with cut flowers, the cut ends of these trees seal themselves and cannot absorb moisture.

It is necessary to cut an inch or two on a diagonal from the base and place the tree in a bucket of water so it can absorb water until you are ready to decorate it. Continue reading

What’s lurking in your tube of lipstick?

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

A New York woman has filed a lawsuit against a cosmetics firm claiming that a sample of lipstick applied by an employee gave her the herpes cold sore virus. Is that even possible?

She claimed that two days after she tried the sample of lipstick her lip began to swell and a physician diagnosed her with a cold sore. She stated that her goal is to force makeup companies to practice better hygiene and use disposable tubes and applicators.

Cold sores are the result of an infection with the herpes simplex virus type 1. HSV-1 can be transmitted from person to person by kissing, sharing dishes, towels, razors and other items. It is different from herpes simplex virus type 2, the main cause of genital herpes, which is spread by sexual contact.

There is no cure for a herpes infection. Once someone is infected, the virus invades nerve cells. Even after the cold sore heals, the virus remains in the nerve cells and can lie dormant for any length of time. The virus can be reactivated by exposure to the sun, fever, menstruation, emotional distress, a weakened immune system, an illness or even space flight. Continue reading

A simple solution to menopausal weight gain?

Dr. Tristi Muir

Dr. Tristi Muir

Our Bodies, Our Lives

The weight gain around the middle that accompanies midlife can creep up on you and then hang on for dear life.

Loss of muscle mass that accompanies aging and decreased physical activity are the primary contributors to a slower metabolism; however, there are other potential contributors to the midlife spread.

Eating out, alcohol, sleep deprivation, stress, medical problems and family genetics can all pack pounds around our waistlines. With the scale creeping up an average of one pound a year, how can you fight back?

I know you guessed the right answer: diet and exercise!

Maintaining your figure after menopause means cutting calories — approximately 200 calories per day — and increasing your activity level. Estimated caloric needs (to maintain weight) for menopausal women are 1,600 calories (for sedentary women), 1,800 calories (moderately active women) and 2,000-2,200 calories (active women). A calorie deficit of 500 calories or more per day is a common goal for women who want to lose weight. Continue reading

Is aging healthy?

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

One of my favorite positive thinkers was Norman Vincent Peale. He said something about aging that I have shared with patients over the years.

It was something like this: “Age by itself does not necessarily bring premature disease and disability, but it is the belief that age brings these conditions that hastens their arrival.” Peale also said: “Live your life and forget your age.”

There are many negative myths about aging, and then there is also the reality that some people age better than others. While certain biological changes are inevitable, managing them with grace, humor and generosity of spirit makes the journey better for us and for those around us.

I think of so many of my dear patients over the years who have not only endured but thrived well beyond the biblical three score and 10. One just died in Kerrville at 102 after a life well-lived, surrounded by her adoring family. Continue reading

Tips for picking a baby sitter

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

The holiday season seems to fill automatically with potlucks and lunches, work parties and cocktail hours, dinners with the boss and lodge and church events.

All of these can cause parents to spend many more evenings away from home than usual. Really lucky parents might have two or three baby sitters available during this season, but it is likely that all might be busy on any one day, and you will have to find someone new to care for your children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these reminders for picking your baby sitter:

• Be sure to meet any new baby sitter before he or she takes care of your children. Getting references doesn’t do much good if you don’t check them. Find out whether the applicants have had any formal training before you employ them. Accidents do happen, and, if possible, those who replace you while you are away should be trained in first aid and know CPR. The Red Cross offers classes in many communities.

• Sitters should be at least 13 years of age, mature enough for any emergency that arises. Continue reading

Mucus is home to a body defender

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Though it has a reputation as slimy and gross, mucus is one of the most valuable lines of defense against the bacteria people are exposed to every day. It exists not only in a person’s nose, but the respiratory, digestive, urogenital, visual and auditory systems.

Science now shows it contains viruses called bacteriophage (phage for short) that attack and kill bacteria.

A virus is a tiny, infectious agent that is made of a protein coating and a core of genetic information. Although viruses can carry genetic information, undergo mutations and reproduce, they cannot metabolize on their own and thus are not considered alive.

Viruses are classified by the type of genetic information they contain and the shape of their protein capsule. There are viruses that infect every living thing on earth. There are even viruses that infect other viruses. Certain viruses that can infect bacteria have been found in mucus.

A healthy adult produces about 1 to 11⁄2 liters of mucus per day. Mucus consists of water, salts, antibodies, enzymes and a family of proteins called mucins. Different mucins are responsible for signaling between cells, forming a chemical barrier for protection and working with the immune system. Continue reading

Writing can help you heal

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Tell or write your story to find healing and personal discovery. An evolving field of health care is called narrative medicine. This involves having people use journaling, writing down aspects of their life story, poetry, short stories and other written reflections on what is happening or has happened in their lives.

Such writing can be highly therapeutic. Well-documented studies published in the medical literature show journaling can relieve such conditions as pain, depression and asthmatic symptoms.

For example, Life Story is a healing process in which people write and talk about intense vignettes of their life experiences. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Galveston is one locale where you can learn how to write and share your life story.

I have learned the power of writing down your stories during the years alongside my wife, who used it as a focus for her doctoral dissertation and her work at the OLLI.

Writing your story is helpful to both the writer who connects with his or her history and the listeners who learn of their own deep connection with others through shared stories. Continue reading